ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday suspended as many as 332 lawmakers, including ministers and other political heavyweights, for their failure to submit annual statements of assets and liabilities by Tuesday — two weeks after the expiry of the Dec 31 deadline to do so.

Interestingly, the list of suspended lawmakers includes names of two political heavyweights who have yet to take the oath, raising the question if the ECP can suspend the members-elect. They are former finance minister and Senator-elect Muhammad Ishaq Dar and former interior minister and member-elect of the Punjab Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.

Those suspended include 116 members of the Punjab Assembly, 72 members of the National Assembly, 54 members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly, 52 members of the Sindh Assembly, 20 senators and 19 members of the Balochistan Assembly.

The 72 suspended members of the National Assembly include Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Federal Minister for National Health Services Amir Mehmood Kiyani, Minister of State for Interior Shahryar Khan Afridi and Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri.

Other prominent MNAs on the list include Dr Amir Liaquat, Ahsan Iqbal, Khursheed Ahmad Junejo, Nauman Islam Shaikh, Nawabzada Yusuf Talpur, Muhammad Akhtar Mengal, Khial Zaman, Munir Khan Orakzai and Sajid Hussain Turi.

Prominent among the 20 suspended senators are Musadik Masood Malik, Raheela Magsi, Dr Shahzad Waseem, Islamuddin Shaikh, Rukhsana Zuberi, Quratulain Marri, Sarfaraz Ahmad Bugti and Sitara Ayaz.

The suspended members of the Sindh Assembly include former provincial information minister Sharjeel Inam Memon, Mir Nadir Ali Magsi, Hasnain Ali Mirza, Ali Hassan, Mukesh Kumar Chawla and Hari Ram.

The amended law requires the members of parliament and provincial assemblies to submit to the ECP the statements of assets and liabilities of their own, spouses and children by Dec 31 every year.

The Section 137 (1) of the Elections Act, 2017, reads: “Every Member of an Assembly and Senate shall submit to the Commission, on or before 31st December each year, a copy of his statement of assets and liabilities including assets and liabilities of his spouse and dependent children as on the preceding thirtieth day of June on Form B.”

The law also provides for what can be called a grace period of 15 days. The Section 137 (3) of the Elections Act reads: “The Commission shall, on the sixteenth day of January, by an order suspend the membership of a Member of an assembly and Senate who fails to submit the statement of assets and liabilities by the fifteenth day of January and such Member shall cease to function till he/she files the statement of assets and liabilities.”

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2019